View Full Version : Some things you missed in 2008

12-09-2008, 08:58 PM
I just posted some of those that would interest you guys more. :wink02:

4. US helps India to build a missile shield

The controversy over U.S. missile defense these days tends to focus on Russia’s increasingly strident objections to proposed U.S. installations in Eastern Europe. But a more volatile situation might be brewing farther east. On Feb. 27, 2008, after two days of meetings in New Delhi, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates quietly announced negotiations between the United States and India to develop a missile defense program on Indian soil. Although still in its early stages, a missile shield on the subcontinent could have long-term implications for U.S.-China relations and regional stability.

Just as proposed U.S. rocket interceptors in Poland stoke tension between the United States and Russia, a U.S.-facilitated missile shield in India could become a flash point for great-power struggles for decades to come. The plans are likely to add to fears in Beijing that the United States is attempting to temper China’s growing influence in Asia. Gates’s trip to New Delhi was part of a tour of three of the region’s democracies—India, Australia, and Indonesia—which could be used to counter China’s regional ambitions if relations with the United States turn frosty. Even more troubling, an Indian missile shield risks triggering a crisis in the nuclear rivalry between India and Pakistan.

The biggest winner? Probably Lockheed Martin. The defense contractor has already entered into talks with the Indian military about selling the country its Patriot missile defense system. “The US has spent billions of dollars” developing the Patriot system, said Lockheed Martin Vice President Dennis Cavin last January. “We reckon that India need not spend so much money on developing its own system when we can help.”


5. Russia makes play for Africa

China’s recent adventures in Africa have been well-publicized, as have the West’s attempts to keep up. Now add one more player to the mix: Russia is moving into Africa in a big way, snatching up gas and oil deals, with an eye on winning even greater leverage over the global energy market.

In September, Russia’s state-controlled energy monopoly Gazprom obtained gas concessions in Nigeria, which is thought to hold one of the world’s largest natural gas supplies. In addition to offering such development-aid carrots as electricity generation, Gazprom agreed to help the West African country fund a 2,700-mile trans-Saharan pipeline to Europe.

Gazprom, in a joint venture with Italy’s Eni, is also looking to finance a pipeline from Libya that would carry natural gas under the Mediterranean. Russia offered to buy all Libyan gas and some of its oil exports. If the deal goes through, it would give Russia complete control over supply to the European Union. Russia has additional deals in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, and the Ivory Coast worth $3.5 billion and expected to be operational by 2010.

But it’s not just pipelines Russia wants—it’s also hearts and minds. Russia has canceled $20 billion in African debt and recently announced a $500 million aid package for African countries with no strings attached. Russia helped prevent sanctions on Zimbabwe from passing the U.N. Security Council a few months after Zimbabwe was opening a tourism office in Moscow.

All this has Europe very worried. If Russia controls natural gas supplies from the east—through Gazprom’s holdings in Central Asia—as well as the south, that would leave Europe surrounded, with little room to find alternative energy supplies. It was no coincidence that the EU offered $21 billion for the trans-Saharan pipeline just after the Georgia-Russia war. Let the great games begin.


6. Greenhouse gas comes from Solar Panels

Think switching to solar energy will make you green? Think again. Many of the newest solar panels are manufactured with a gas that is 17,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide in contributing to global warming.

Nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, is used for cleaning microcircuits during the manufacture of a host of modern electronics, including flat-screen TVs, iPhones, computer chips—and thin-film solar panels, the latest (and cheapest) generation of solar photovoltaics. (Time named the panels one of the best inventions of 2008.) Because industry estimates suggested that only about 2 percent of NF3 ever made it into the atmosphere, the chemical has been marketed as a cleaner alternative to other higher-emitting options. For the past decade, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has actively encouraged its use. NF3 also wasn’t deemed dangerous enough to be covered by the Kyoto Protocol, making it an attractive substitute for companies and signatory countries eager to lower their emissions footprints.

It turns out that NF3 might not be so green after all. “NF3 has a potential greenhouse impact larger than … even that of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants,” according to a June 2008 study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine. Because NF3 isn’t covered by Kyoto, few attempts have been made to measure it in the atmosphere. But last October, scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported that four times more NF3 is present in the atmosphere than industry estimates suggest, and its concentration is rising 11 percent a year.

Compared with the damage caused by CO2 emissions, NF3 remains a blip because far less of it is emitted. But Ray Weiss, who led the Scripps team, thinks that, unless regulations require more complete greenhouse gas measurements, more unpleasant surprises will be in store. With NF3, he says, “We’re finding considerably more in the atmosphere than was expected. This [gas] won’t be the only example of that.”


9. For the first time, a US citizen convicted of torture abroad

Since 1994, the U.S. Department of Justice has had the right to prosecute U.S. citizens on U.S. soil for crimes of torture committed abroad. But it wasn’t until a highly unusual case this year that the law saw its first conviction. Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr., son of the former Liberian president, was convicted of torture, conspiracy, and possession of a firearm by a federal grand jury on Oct. 30. War crimes clearly run in the family. His father is currently on trial at The Hague.

The younger Taylor was born in Massachusetts and retained his U.S. citizenship after moving to Liberia when his father took office. He committed his crimes as head of the Anti-Terrorist Unit (known as the “Demon Forces”) of his father’s government from 1999 to 2002. Although his task was officially to protect Liberian officials, in practice, prosecutors said, Taylor tortured opposition members and political opponents using irons, hot wax, knives, electronic shockers, and firearms.

This case is the first application of the U.S. federal extraterritorial torture statute, passed in 1994 following the U.S. ratification of the U.N. Convention Against Torture. Human rights advocates hope it won’t be the last. Crucially, the law also gives the Justice Department authority to prosecute other countries’ citizens on U.S. soil for torture committed abroad. Several groups are pushing for prosecution of past human rights violators from Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Haiti now residing in the United States.

Some speculate it could even open the door to prosecutions of Bush administration officials for engaging in torture overseas. “You would have to be able to prove that the individual official specifically was doing that,” explains Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group. “Is it possible that law could do that? I think so.”


10. American company sells 'Sonic Blasters' to China

After the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the United States took action by imposing a strict arms embargo on China. So how, exactly, was it legal for a U.S. company to sell China a powerful tool to incapacitate and injure protesters in advance of the Olympic Games in Beijing?

Reporting from a Beijing police equipment expo in April, journalist David Hambling noticed a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) produced by California-based American Technology Corporation (ATC) on prominent display. The LRAD works by emitting from a dish high-energy acoustic waves that are said to be, at close proximity, louder than a jet engine. It is capable of reaching 150 decibels, enough to incite panic, inflict pain, and even cause hearing loss among large crowds.

But is it a weapon? ATC euphemistically describes it as a “directed-sounds communications system,” but in a November 2008 article in Maritime Reporter and Engineering News, the company’s vice president boasted of how the U.S. Navy was increasingly using LRAD devices to “prevent terrorist incidents” and repel Somali pirates. When the embargo was enacted, such devices didn’t even exist. It remains to be seen whether nonlethal crowd-control systems will be included in future arms-control agreements.

The Chinese definitely have the LRAD, but as far as anyone knows, they haven’t employed it yet. Nor were there reports of its use during the Summer Olympics. Using dangerous sound weapons on peaceful protesters might seem draconian, but that, too, depends on the alternatives: “I also came across photos of the Chinese police practicing with flamethrowers before the Olympics, so LRAD would have let protesters off lightly,” says Hambling.


12-13-2008, 05:43 PM
I just posted some of those that would interest you guys more. :wink02:
Uh,gee thanks:coffee: